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Making Love With Reality

Updated: Jan 28

For about two years before Erik died, I’d occasionally hear a voice that said, “When Erik dies, go to ISTA.”

This was strange — not so much the voice, which I hear sometimes — but the idea that I should wait and do ISTA solo. ISTA stands for the International School of Temple Arts - a sexual, shamanic, spiritual experience. This was the kind of thing Erik and I would usually do together. But it was clear: I was meant to wait and go alone. I figured I’d end up going when I was in my 60s. But instead, I went the week before last.

I had an intention that felt a little fantasy-land. But it was the only thing I could find that I truly desired:

To learn to make love to Reality as it is with all its pain and loss and beauty.

(And then a sub-intention: To find some oomph, to feel my life force return.)

I don’t know that I’ve ever said that I’ve gotten an intention 100% but on the last day of the retreat, I raised my hand in gratitude: I got what I came for.

Before I went, I spent weeks aware that I had not yet chosen to re-enter the stream of life. I couldn’t’ find anything in my body that desired starting over. Each morning, I’d think to myself: I got more in this life than I ever imagined. I don’t want to rebuild and create a new life. I’m good.

One of the sweet surprises of ISTA was that I had the felt experience that Life chose me.

I didn’t have to make some big, willful declaration: I choose life! Instead, I had the palpable sense that life gathered me up, so gently, and said: We’ve got you. We’re going to keep you.

It was so soft, like a whisper, like being gathered into a nest, like a gentle embrace.

Also, this tantric space was an amazing place to grieve and reach down and express the grief that was deep in my body. I’ve been to enough tantra retreats to know that the good ones can hold anything. At my first tantra retreat all I did was feel angry the whole time… and I had an amazing experience.

One of the most powerful experiences I had at ISTA was something called Aspecting. We sat on a mat across from a pillow and were to express everything we hadn’t expressed to a parent. While also using powerful emotional release tools. And then we’d switch seats and express from the parent’s point of view while again, using the emotional release tools. So we moved the emotions on behalf of both of us.

I tried to do the exercises with a parent but Erik kept coming in. And so I had a dialogue with him, expressing what I needed to express: my grief, my anger, my love. I yelled, I wept, I moaned.

I’ve done this exercise before but there was something about the shamanic nature of the container that brought it to another level. When I sat in Erik’s seat, I could feel him and I used the tools to express his feelings through my body.

This alive dialogue went back and forth… Then near the end, I sat in Erik’s seat and suddenly felt what it feels like for him to love me without a body. The love was so big I couldn’t find the edges of it. I’ve never felt such a boundless and expansive and all-enveloping love. It was like the love of God with a warm oomphy Erik flavor to it.

I’m sure that big love is there for everyone who Erik loved. And, it was such a gift to swim in it.

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